About Alyssa

Living and working in Chicago with my husband

Student Teaching – Week 1

While I was supposed to start my student teaching experience January 6, finals for the first semester weren’t until last week, so my two mentor teachers and I all decided to hold off until January 27, when the new semester would start. In the meantime, I did what any normal grad student-who-realized-five-months-ago-that-classroom-teaching-isn’t-her-thing-because-she-really-doesn’t-actually-like-dealing-with-people-but-it’s-too-late-to-quit-now-according-to-friends-and-family would do: slept and read books.

Thank you anankkml from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Thank you anankkml from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

The rest of my classmates were frantically creating the perfect lesson plans within the perfect unit plans, complete with differentiation, and interactive learning activities. I, on the other hand, made a pot of coffee and got to work on Sandman Vol. 9 (which was excellent), followed by Dante’s Divine Comedy (which is not so excellent, and I have not, in fact, finished it because it makes me want to die — ironically, enough).

Last week was a hectic rush to get everything together — daily agendas, lesson plans, a working idea of what to do. Oh yeah, and reading the texts I’m supposed to be able to teach children by the 27th. AND printing out those damn handouts. Honestly, you don’t even have to spend a full two months student teaching to be an avid supporter of the paperless revolution. I have nightmares about the copier breaking down or running out of ink.

By the 26th, I was in a slight panic. I had everything mostly together, but I had wanted to be at least a couple of weeks into planning and I still had no idea what I wanted to do with the seniors on Tuesday. Luckily, (kind of) Chicago got hit with another arctic blast! The schools very kindly decided to shut down for two days, which has given me more time to sleep, read, and now blog.

Hello, -30 degree weather

Hello, -30 degree weather

I know I should be planning, and I even tell myself to get out from underneath my electric blanket to DO something. Or, at least, read the novel the seniors are reading so I have some sort of idea of what we’re supposed to be learning. But, in the end, I can’t bring myself to care all that much.

I’ll do it, of course, as I always do. I’m not going to show up to the classroom with nothing planned, but I don’t really see the point of making perfect lesson plans for perfect units. The kids will shoot it all to hell in a few minutes, either because I didn’t accurately predict how much they know, or it’s just one of those days when the entire class is tired, or it’s one of those days when the entire class has too much energy, or the heat isn’t working and everyone’s shivering, or the heat is working too well and everyone’s sweating because they’re stuck in sweaters and flannel-lined jeans. In any case, I’ve learned from observing that there is no way to be perfect. Especially not when that perfection hinges on the emotions, focus, and work ethic of 30+ teenagers who are forced to spend over seven hours a day, five days a week, sitting at desks and learning things most of them won’t even remember in a few years.

But for all my complaining, I do like most of the kids. While I’ve come to realize that I just don’t have the patience for matching standards to lesson plans and trying to make everything engaging, student-centered, and relevant to current educational theories, I’m still going to make the most of this experience. If anything, being in charge of 30+ teenagers on a daily basis is going to really strengthen my authoritative skills.

First Trip to New York: Part Two

If you’re interested in pictures, click here!

I actually meant to have only one post about NY and BEA, but I realized that it would be way too long. As a result, the intro to my previous post is a bit misleading, since it talks about the city and I really only went into detail about BEA — sorry about that. THIS post, however, will include my thoughts on New York City.

I’m kind of sad that we weren’t able to explore New York more fully, but I am not capable of handling crowds very well, so dealing with a conference and sight-seeing in one of the most populated cities in the world was a lot to handle. We stayed in a hotel very, very close to Times Square because the convention center is located around that area. So, for the first two days my only experience with New York was with Times Square and its surroundings.

Times Square was alright. I liked seeing all the lights and ads, and the stores were pretty cool, but meh. It was probably the dirtiest place I’ve ever been in my life and just so FULL of people. There were some things I enjoyed, like getting up on the giant board and exploring the shops. (They have the coolest Toys ‘R’ Us there!!!) Overall, though, I was kind of disappointed and that made me sad. I believed that I hated New York and, for some reason, that made me feel like a failure as a human being.

On the giant board at Times Square

On the giant board at Times Square

But that all went away once we got out of the Times Square area and started doing proper New York City things. We went to the Met, which was a ridiculous walk from our hotel. Google Maps said it was 3 miles, but we all think it lied. Although, the hot weather might have had something to do with how difficult that walk was. I LOVED the Met, but I usually love museums, so that’s not anything surprising. I kind of wish I checked it out online before we went, because there was some sort of Punk Couture exhibit that we totally missed. *sigh*

On Friday, my mom and I went to the 9/11 memorial in lower Manhattan. It’s a beautiful memorial, but there were people standing in front of the pools, smiling and taking pictures. Both my mom and I felt like that was disrespectful, but however they want to remember their visit, I guess.

Picture of one of the pools at the 9/11 memorial. The surrounding walls have names of the people who died that day carved into them.

Picture of one of the pools at the 9/11 memorial. The surrounding walls have names of the people who died that day carved into them.

Here, you can see part of a name in the wall

Here, you can see part of a name in the wall

After that, we went to Wall Street. It was hot, I was not in a good mood and didn’t particularly want to go, but I actually enjoyed this part of New York. Not so many people, the streets were clean, and I didn’t automatically think “food poisoning” every time I walked by a food place.

The last night, we took the time to go to The Empire State Building, which I absolutely loved. Seeing the city at night was fantastic, and that’s probably where I took most my pictures. The 86th floor was nice for pictures, but it was very windy, which freaked me out for some reason. I think the wind kept reminding me just how far up I was, and I was on the brink of a slight anxiety attack when we went back in. The 102th floor was perfect, though the pictures weren’t as good, because it was closed in.

NYC as seen from the Empire State Building

NYC as seen from the Empire State Building

Another Empire State Building pic

Another Empire State Building pic

Of course, I got us lost on the walk back, so  my mom and I were wandering around NYC at 1:30 AM trying to figure out just where we were. Surprisingly, that was fun. (Not sarcasm — I can’t speak for my mother, but I kind of enjoyed wandering around the city in the middle of the night.) Eventually, we figured it out and were able to get back to the hotel in time to take a short nap and then hop in a car to the airport for very early return flights.

Overall, I had fun. I wish we had more time, but I also think it’s kind of nice that we were able to get a feel for the city before planning a proper visit. We’re definitely going back, and now I have an idea of what to expect — and I know NOT to visit Times Square!

My First Trip to New York and BookExpo America 2013 Part 1

New York City. “The City.” I feel like this is one place where everyone in the US dreams of living at some point in their life. I did. When I was gathering college brochures my sophomore year of high school, NYU was at the top of my list, as were a few other New York universities. Because that’s where the art is, right? You’re able to really experience everything. You can make money by singing on the street or something; you can write in little coffee shops; you can hang out in parks and experience all sorts of variety. It’s all so magical and life-changing and living there helps you to become a well-rounded, intellectual person.

God, I love the idea of New York.

There’s also this thing called BookExpo America (BEA) and it’s been hosted in New York city for the past five years or so. Ever since I became a book blogger, in the long-ago days of late 2010, I’ve heard of this magical publishing industry event where you meet actual publishers, editors, authors, and they give you free books to review. Some of them are even signed.

And yes, book bloggers are able to go. (So are educators, for those who are interested.)

I was drooling over it last year in 2012, when they had guests like John Green (OMG!!!), Eoin Colfer, and Jeffrey Eugenides. These are just a few names, of course. Hundreds and hundreds of authors go to this event every year. And when I told my godmother, Mickey, about it her response was, “We need to go.”

So, that’s how this trip happened. Mickey and my mom started giving me reviews to post on my blog and became my official co-bloggers; late last year we bought our tickets, booked our flights, and booked our hotel. And for the next five months, I stalked the BEA website to see who would be there and what books were coming out.

The Event:

bookexpoamerica

(More pictures to come — Mom needs to send me the ones from her camera, but here is my Flickr account for the ones I have and ones that Mickey sent me.)

I made a prioritized list of who to see and what books to get, asking my mom and Mickey for their input on who the “must see” authors were. We went to those “must-haves” and then wandered about for the rest of the day. Generally, my mom and I stayed from opening at 9 AM until about 1 or 2 in the afternoon and then went off to do New York things. Mickey had already been to New York, so she took full advantage of the event and often didn’t leave until it ended.

I got all of the books I really wanted and even attended a Neil Gaiman talk on Day 3 of the conference (the last day). That was probably my favorite event because of the energy in the room. It’s so weird, because whenever I talk about him with many of my friends and family I get, “Uh, who’s that?” But in that room, everyone loved him as much as I do and when he walked in, I suddenly understood how mobs happen. There was so much excitement and energy, I couldn’t help but get caught up in it. We oohed, ahhed, and vigorously applauded EVERYTHING he said. And when I looked at the people around me, their faces were full of the rapture I was experiencing.

Neil Gaiman on stage

Neil Gaiman on stage

And the weird thing is: Neil Gaiman is really as awesome as you’d imagine him to be. There’s that typical thing people say about being disappointed when you meet one of your idols. I’ve found this to be true. John Barrowman wasn’t nearly as great as I thought he’d be (he was still cool, but not to the extent I dreamed), and I generally am only really impressed by people who I think are pretty cool, but I don’t idolize so much. I was so NOT disappointed by Neil Gaiman, though. His speech on “Why Fiction is Dangerous” was funny, moving, and so very, very intelligent. If you ever have a chance to see him live, DO IT. (You can watch his talk here — so good!)

I went a little overboard on the Neil Gaiman pics.

I went a little overboard on the Neil Gaiman pics.

Overall, BEA was an amazing experience. Overwhelming, exhausting, and so, so worth it. The three of us loved it, and I think attending every couple years or so would be do-able. Not every year, because it really was one of the most tiring events I’ve been to. There’s just SO MUCH happening, all related to books — the one addiction I will never break. A lot of events, a lot of emotions, and a lot of meeting people. *happy sigh*

All the books I got at BEA -- and this was from not staying the whole time and actually passing on some books. Yeah. A booklover's dream, that event.

All the books I got at BEA — and this was from not staying the whole time and actually passing on some books. Yeah. A booklover’s dream, that event.

To be continued … (next post: my thoughts on New York City)

PS

I hope you’re all enjoying the start of summer! My summer officially starts in 3 days, and I CANNOT WAIT. I’ll be in Southern California starting July 17 until July 31 — maybe later, but I need to work out some school and work stuff before I commit to staying longer. So, if you’ll be in the Lancaster area around then, be sure to send me a message so we can hang out!

A Night Out

*Work in progress*

A Night Out

Start with the face:

primer-liquid-powder flesh

rose-red dusting to make cheeks

slather, blend, rub in

Hide those human imperfections

 

Accent the eyes:

silver-inked lashes lengthened by coal-black tar

shadow with copper, purple, green

no natural-neutrals

the world needs

Originality

Personality

 

Don’t forget the lips:

moisturizing base

pigment found in neon lights

add gloss for shine

make it last —

don’t drink or eat —

it keeps you Thin

 

One hour to show that I am Me –

Attractive and Confident,

Uncaring of judgments

because I am Beautiful:

hiding in the crowd

with all the other magazine-ad-women

shouting in a whisper of sparkling powder:

Aren’t we perfect?

Don’t you want me?

Don’t you love me?

Finally, an Update!

I’m sure you’re all super disappointed that I haven’t been updating you on my glamorous new live in Evanston/Chicago. No longer! Now that I have non-writing workshop undergrad classes (English class requirements for  my teaching credential even though I already have a BA in English — ugh), I have time to write!

I know what you’re thinking: wait, what? How do classes add to your free time? Well, if you’ve spent a lot of time with me at pretty much any point in my life, you know that I don’t find many lecture classes helpful, so I don’t pay attention in a lot of them. (If you’re a former professor and reading this, I TOTALLY focused 100% in your class on what you were saying and stuff. Seriously. I did.) Usually it’s when the professor stands in front of the class and talks non-stop for an hour and a half (or longer) that I stop caring.

bored

The one class I’m blogging in is supposed to be a comparative literature course focusing on ancient Japanese literature. So, when class starts, the professor tells us all the summaries of the things we’re supposed to have read over the weekend And, okay, it is 200-300 pages per week, so even I don’t do all of the reading, but still, it gets ridiculous. And then, to make it more annoying, she teaches us Japanese vocab. even though we’re reading all translations and there aren’t any quizzes or tests. It’s a “just for fun” thing that takes up about half of the class time. Anyway, the point is that this class bores me, so I’m going to be writing some blog posts while it’s in session.

I didn’t do much  last quarter — between adjusting to this new city, work, and school, I didn’t have much chance to do a lot of fun, outside-of-the-apartment things. There were, however, two major events that were exciting for me. I went to two book signings, one with Cory Doctorow and one with John and Carole Barrowman.

100_1785

Me with the brilliant Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow is an award-winning sci-fi author, and I went for his new novel Pirate Cinema. I had a lot more fun than I thought I would. The only thing I’ve read by him was a steampunk short story (an amazing one, but I can’t remember the title, unfortunately), so I guess I didn’t know what to expect. All I have to say is that if you ever have a chance to hear Cory Doctorow speak and/or read, do it. He’s incredibly intelligent, well-spoken, and NICE. I had a lot of fun at this event and was grinning about it even a few days later. He spoke a lot about Creative Commons licensing, which is always very interesting. And, if you are interested in his work, you can buy them, but he also offers them for free on his website as PDFs, Mobis, PRCs, etc. Here’s his Pirate Cinema page.

100_1786

He signed it! And added a very cool skull and crossbones.

Some of you may know John Barrowman as an actor. He plays Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood and is now in the CW show, Arrow. He and his sister wrote a children’s fantasy book called Hollow Earth, and as a Doctor Who/Torchwood fan, I skipped poetry class to get his signature on a book and see him in person.

Waiting in line to get my book signed -- there are the authors!

Waiting in line to get my book signed — there are the authors!

003

That’s John Barrowman and he’s signing my book!

Me thanking him. Happy!

Me thanking him. Happy!

Because of his popularity, this wasn’t as intimate as the Doctorow reading, but it was still a lot of fun.

Answers to common questions from friends:

1) He is MORE handsome in person and has striking green eyes. Even on a regular basis, I have issues with remembering how to breathe, and I definitely forgot to breathe when we made eye contact.

2) He is as hilarious and charismatic as you imagine him to be.

3) His sister is just as awesome.

Alright, enough of being a bad student. Back to my boring class. :/

Chicago Part 2: The Move In

Considering that I had no money to fly out to Evanston and check out apartments, I decided that going into university-owned grad housing was safer. I knew that it would be clean and that if I needed anything repaired, they’d do it in a timely manner. Yes, it’s expensive (it comes out to roughly $1400 a month), but the price does include all utilities, internet, and cable. So not too bad, honestly.

Besides, I read reviews for the ones offering $700 a month, and I heard horror stories about rats and stuff. SO NOT dealing with that.

Anyway, when we got to my apartment building, the check-in was relatively painless. I had to call the on-duty person, since it was a Saturday and the office wasn’t open. He was nice, but he failed to mention that the building had two carts in the basement for help with moving in and large grocery ones. That REALLY would have helped for the first two trips. Thankfully, the third time we got downstairs there was a girl from New York who pointed us in the right direction. That cut down on moving time, which was great, because we were all exhausted from the drive.

I have to admit that I was disappointed by the apartment. I guess I expected less dorm-living and that is definitely not what this is. Very uncomfortable (and ugly) furniture, a shower stall barely big enough for a normal-sized person (thankfully, I’m small), and the smallest kitchen I’ve ever seen in my life. Seriously, vacation resorts give you bigger kitchens than what I have. And I’m not sure what the architects were thinking, (they weren’t) because this place has low ceilings and impossibly high cupboards. I have moved one of my kitchen chairs into the kitchen so I can reach my food and things. It takes up about half my “kitchen,” but the convenience is worth it, I think.

Shower

The shower. Look at how much room my very few things take up!

Kitchen

The tiny kitchen. I am short, so the chair that takes up half of it is very necessary. For a reference, I can reach the microwave on my tiptoes. Those cabinets? Yeah, so not happening without some help.

Counter Space

This is all the counter space I have. Note: a 2-slice toaster, a coffee pot, and a stack of filters = full counter!

Living room

The ugliest match-up I have ever seen in my life. The blanket is there, because even yarn is more comfortable than whatever weird material makes up the couch.

My TV

The beautiful TV, TV cart, and DVD player my parents so nicely bought me. (Actually, they bought me a lot of things, but this is by far the coolest.) My mom put the stand together, and my dad hooked up the TV. If I didn’t mind the effort, I could actually hook up my computer to this thing.

I will not show the bedroom because it already has clothes everywhere. I would say that this problem could be helped by more drawer space, but I also had this problem at home and in Long Beach. So yeah, it’s an average bedroom. Queen-sized bed, which is WAY nice. Especially since I use about half of it to store some of my clothes. Also, while the couches suck, the bed is actually decent. I would even say it’s a step up from hotel beds.

So, there you go. My apartment. I’ve grown used to it, and even though its ugliness was kind of hard to deal with at first, I like it. It’s nice having my own place. And I’m actually becoming kind of a hermit, so hopefully going to class and meeting people in group projects *groan* will remedy that. I do want to explore the city, after all. And having fun doing that is a little hard to do without friends of some sort.

Chicago Part 1: The Road Trip

The drive from Lancaster, CA to Evanston, IL is 2,000 miles long and takes roughly 30 hours to complete. Add to that a stop here and there to use the restroom, meals to tide us over for 8-12 hours, and car fatigue causing us to turn in early for the night at a random hotel, and you have about a 4-day trip (my dad’s estimate, and he’s the main driver, so what he says goes). We did it in three. And my god am I exhausted.

It didn’t help that I had absolutely no room in the car. I took A LOT of stuff with me, and my parents had to have room for their suitcases. To get an idea, here is the pile of stuff I had to pack in the car. This doesn’t include my purse and travel bag.

And THIS is what my dad and I weren’t able to fit in the car:

Yeah, we’re awesome that way. To be honest, I think the sacrifice was worth it. I’m already freaking out about how much of my stuff I left in Lancaster. (My books: I MISS YOU!) But there was no leg room and no way I could lounge a little bit. Here is what it looked like:

During the trip, we went through 7 different states: California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa. And although we didn’t drive completely through Illinois, it was close. Evanston is on the very edge, up against the lake. Luckily, most of these states are gorgeous, so the three days’ drive wasn’t too much of a chore.

The States

(Note: I didn’t take pictures of California or Nevada. I’ve lived in the desert all my life, and desert just doesn’t interest me.) Here’s a picture of Lancaster, and if you want to know what those two states looked like, that’s pretty much it. Minus the overabundance of Joshua Trees. Joshua Trees actually don’t grow in very many places, and though they grow in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, there aren’t so many of them in one place in those states, like in Mojave or Lancaster. So we’re actually pretty special in the Lancaster area. I guess. I think they’re ugly, but some people like they way they look.

Lancaster, CA

Somewhere in Arizona

Somewhere in Utah

Vail, Colorado

Somewhere in Nebraska

Somewhere in Iowa

The Mississippi River in Illinois

Notable Moments

– Though it was over too quickly to get a picture, my dad and I saw a perfect dust devil (whirlwind of dirt — see picture below) in Arizona.

– Brighton, Colorado has the biggest, CLEANEST Super Target I have ever seen in my life. And I’ve been to a lot of Targets. I seriously felt like I was in a rich people’s Target.

– Colorado lets people ride their bicycles on their freeways. We saw some idiot who wasn’t even wearing a helmet while riding his bike on the freeway. I don’t see this ever working in California. At least, not in the parts I’ve been to.